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October 12th, 2009
07:58 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Oct. 12

Richard Strandlof says he didn't mean to cause harm when he lied about being a military veteran.

Richard Strandlof says he didn't mean to cause harm when he lied about being a military veteran.

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

It’s been a while, dear blog readers… but I’m still kicking around the 7th floor offices. While more desks may be empty than usual, our rundown isn’t showing signs of Columbus Day.

And since I’m not assigned to a story today, I thought I’d hop back on the blog with a “news Note”; thanks for indulging me.

Sadly, every day provides ample opportunity for disappointment and outrage when you skim the headlines. But sometimes, there is a silver lining in those stories – today’s can be found in a long overdue arrest.

Richard Strandlof’s name may not be familiar, but his story is difficult to forget. Earlier this year, he admitted to Anderson – on the air – that he had lied about surviving the September 11th attacks. Lied about surviving a roadside bomb while serving in Iraq. Lied about the injuries he sustained in that fictitious blast. And he used those lies to make a name for himself, founding the “Colorado Veterans Alliance” and campaigning for politicians, all the while touting his 9/11 and battle field scars.

He even lied about his name.

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Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
December 1st, 2008
07:55 PM ET

Erica's News Note: Reflections

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent


Thanksgiving wasn’t the same this year. It was a wonderful day – my husband’s family was in town, and it’s rare we have everyone together more than once a year. It was a beautiful day here in NY; we took in our first live Thanksgiving Day Parade, enjoyed a wonderful feast and created new memories. We made up for lost time and were reminded how lucky we are to be blessed with a family we all like. Yet, I couldn’t help but think of Mumbai and the families forever torn apart by these senseless terrorists.

I take some comfort in the vigils being held worldwide, uniting people across oceans and continents, bringing together different faiths, united in one belief: the 179 people killed and the 300 injured last week in Mumbai should still be here.

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December 1 is World AIDS Day…another good reason to reflect. Dec 1 was first set aside as a day to highlight the disease 20 years ago. The good news: Progress, and lots of it, on both the medical and social fronts.

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Filed under: AIDS • Erica Hill • Erica's News Note • India Attacked
November 26th, 2008
06:35 PM ET

The children are hungry

Impact Your World: The global food market’s shelves are getting bare and hunger activists say it will get worse. As the nation marks World Hunger Relief Week, more people are asking: Why are so many people starving and what, if anything, can be done to eradicate hunger? Learn how you can help

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Thanksgiving is as tied to food drives as it is to turkeys and football. It is the kick-off of the holiday season, when we’re reminded to remember those less fortunate with a can of green beans or a paper stocking at the supermarket. This year, your neighbors need more. And they need it beyond tomorrow.

The people in this country who don’t have enough to eat are your neighbors and colleagues. They may not look like they’re hungry, but hunger doesn’t have a certain look. It doesn’t target one area of the country, one type of person or one socio-economic group. Hunger does not discriminate, and that is what makes the growing number of hungry Americans all the more disturbing.

Last year, 36.2 million Americans were “food insecure” – an official term that sounds generic and clunky, but its meaning is simple: 36.2 million adults and children struggled to find enough to eat. These are parents who may skip meals to feed their children instead, or stretch one meal over a day or even more than one day, because it’s not clear where the next meal will come from. This is more than 12 percent of the population. And when you break down the numbers for children, your heart will break: the number of hungry children in the US rose 50 percent in 2007.

Keep in mind, these numbers are from 2007 – every one I have spoken to since the USDA released the figures last week tells me this year’s numbers will be far worse, and they don’t expect things to improve in 2009. Why? Because in 2007, the economic crisis hadn’t yet begun; people were struggling, but the downturn didn’t dominate the news every night. Banks still had money. The government wasn’t signing off on hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts. People weren’t looking over their shoulder, worried someone from HR was about to tap them on the shoulder, hand them a box and ask them to please clean out their desk.

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Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
November 14th, 2008
07:59 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Friday Roundup

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dog-fighting is not a “sport”. It is sick, inhumane, and inexcusable. It is torture. I will never understand what compels someone to train animals to fight one another, not how anyone can gain pleasure and enjoyment from watching two living beings tear one another to pieces – literally. I don’t want to understand it, either.

I am happy to report 55 people have been arrested in what is believed to be one of the country’s largest dog fighting operations. One of the alleged participants is a special ed teacher. Nice. More than 100 dogs, “bred specifically to fight”, were also seized.

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The Big Dig seems to have been under a dark cloud since Day One, but it is the heart wrenching death of Milena Del Valle more than two years ago that stands out in many minds when you mention the Boston transportation project. Now, one of the Big Dig’s largest contractors, Modern Continental Construction Inc., will pay $21 million in damages related to her death, and to the cost of fixing leaks in the massive highway project.

Del Valle, 39, was killed in July 2006 while on her way to the airport with her husband. She was a passenger in the car when 26 tons of tunnel ceiling collapsed on the vehicle.

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World’s tallest Mohawk – 27 inches of rockin’ locks – gets groomed for charity.

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An 11-year-old girl Oregon girl crawled out of her family's smashed SUV and made her way through a storm to get help, saving seven others in the process.

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When Lt. Gen Ann E. Dunwoody enlisted in the Army more than three decades ago, she figured she’d stay for two years, then move on to college and ultimately become a phys ed teacher.

Things didn’t exactly go as planned. Lt Gen Dunwoody never left the Army, and today she becomes the first woman in U.S. military history to get four stars.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
November 12th, 2008
06:53 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: State of the Union

Erica Hill | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Food banks across the country have been struggling for months, and as the holidays approach and the economy continues to sink, the outlook for food banks and soup kitchens is increasingly bleak. In Houston, however, there is hope, thanks to Louise Hauser. As the food pantry supervisor at West Houston Assistance Ministries (WHAM), Hauser knows the struggle first hand. When she recently won $50,000 on “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”, 20 percent – $10,000 – was earmarked for WHAM.

WHAM is an agency of the Houston Food Bank. All told, the Houston Food Bank feeds 80,000 people each week.
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Lobster is traditionally one of the luxury items on a dinner menu, but that may be changing. Diners are shying away from the fancy crustaceans because of its equally fancy price tag. Lobster now goes for between $2.80 and $4 a pound in Boston, versus $4.50 to $5 a pound last year. On the Cape, you can find it as low as $2.50 a pound. While that may be good news for lobster lovers, it could be disastrous for the men and women who make their living hauling them in.
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Free wedding dresses for military brides. I think that says it all!
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A young man, senselessly beaten two years ago and left with a broken jaw, forearm, cracked ribs and bruises is fighting back in court. The civil suit could bring down the KKK, but can it snuff out the hate? We can only hope.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
November 3rd, 2008
04:31 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: The Final Countdown

(Duh’nah nah nah, duh’nah nah nah nah…)

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

Election Eve and I swear I can feel the energy and excitement in the air, and not just from the CNN folks ready for a day off! NYC is always alive and thumping, but today I am noticing it even more, and I don’t think it’s all in my head. The “discussions” on the street today were more animated, the hand gestures more pronounced, and the voices a bit louder and more emphatic. When I took our dog out this morning, a neighbor had posted a notice with the location of our polling site and the districts we belong to on the front door of our building. No excuses! I’m ready for my “I voted” sticker. The ones in Georgia had peaches on them…wonder if I’ll have one with an apple in NYC?

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Would you like to have the option to vote early? Some experts say the strong turnout in states with early voting could put the pressure on the rest of the country to make it available. I wouldn’t mind having the option, though I’d prefer early voting without the crazy lines.

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If those lines make you crazy, a little help from the folks on CNN’s medical team: anger management for election day.

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Filed under: Erica's News Note
October 31st, 2008
07:30 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Spooktastic!

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

The candidates can talk taxes, national security, even a little healthcare but can they talk football? Get ready for a side of last-minute politicking with your Monday Night Football. Did I mention this week’s Redskins-Steelers match up is on Election Eve? Hmmm… Think the Senators will choose a team? With Pennsylvania votes increasingly important, would they dare shun DC to shill for votes? Do a little half-time analysis?

I think it would be nice to mix this one up. Sure, it’s a hugs audience and a major opportunity to reach voters, but if they don’t know what you stand for les than 12 hours before the polls open, they’ve got bigger issues. I say these two lighten up and talk a little football. Grab some wings, a beer and settle in with America for the night, and leave the stump speeches behind. Yeah, like that would happen!
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There’s a squirrel problem in northern California, one that could give the rabbits a run for their money. At the University of California-Davis, the squirrel population has surged from zero to 400 in seven years, and now it’s time for action.

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Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 29th, 2008
05:56 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: A Whole Lotta WOW

Erica Hill
AC360° Correspondent

Some days, I have to make sure I didn’t lose a contact or inadvertently click on the wrong link. I am increasingly amazed by the stories I read, yet they’re true! I thought you’d be up for a trip down Wow Lane today, if you can peel your eyes from the election coverage. Fasten those seatbelts and grab a helmet, we’re off!

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First stop, China, where now even the EGGS have melamine. How is this chemical – used in plastics and fertilizer – finding its way into food? First the pet food, then tainted baby formula, milk…what’s next, asparagus? At this point, I wouldn’t be shocked by the asparagus headline.

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In Connecticut, where tainted candy was pulled recently, the latest concern is toddler cereal from Brazil, laced with pesticide.

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Clear across the country, some “WOW” of a different sort – the kind that make you smile, rather than cringe.

Cancer is a nasty, cruel disease that is very close to my heart…a little too close. The Oregon Health and Science University Cancer Center wants the state to have the lowest cancer rate in the nation, and they may be getting closer. Nike founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, are donating $100 million dollars to the UHSU Cancer Center. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Knight.

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Also in the spirit of giving, a little wealth spreading; and for the first time in weeks, “spreading the wealth” has nothing to do with partisan politics or a certain man from Ohio. This is sharing in its purest form. Anyone who thinks it’s a bad idea needs a reality check. After winning a Powerball jackpot worth nearly $207 million, the New Mexico group that hit the magic numbers is spreading the wealth to the clerks who sold them the ticket.

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And if you really want a “WOW”, don’t miss the live webcast tonight during the 10pm ET hour of AC360, when none other than Jack Gray, the wittiest blogger around, will be my special guest. Sadly, Sammy the dog was not available – her people make it nearly impossible to book an appearance, but maybe if you all send a request, we’ll have better luck.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 22nd, 2008
05:35 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: Sweet and Sour

Erica Hill | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

Mass layoffs in September are at the highest level we’ve seen since 9/11, according to the Labor Department. Fantastic. Manufacturing accounts for 28 percent of the mass cuts – the sector is also responsible for more than a third of unemployment insurance claims last month. The head of one outsourcing firm says large com[panies are using a “shotgun approach” – not exactly a comforting assessment.

And there could be more bullets in those guns. Sue Murphy, manager for National Human Resources Association in Nashua, N.H., says companies have to prioritize. "The companies look at the nice-to-haves and the must-haves, and the employees that are not essential will be up for review," Murphy said. "A lot of quality people will be out of work."

Fewer jobs, less money to go around on payday, your retirement funds in the toilet, looming heating bills…and a wedding ring returned four decades after it went missing. Time for your afternoon pick-me-up! Let’s leave the economy behind for a moment and focus on your sweet tooth. I once mentioned in the daily newsletter for my show on Headline News that my afternoon pick-me-up was peanut M&Ms. I’m trying to switch from the chocolate (and protein-filled peanuts!) to a healthier snack of good news. Care to tag along?

I am a sucker for a sweet love story. When you’ve got Prince Charming, Cinderella, and a wedding ring down the drain, you know it’s a recipe for sugary, mushy goodness. Enjoy!

If the Zartarians didn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, I have one more treat that just may quench your craving. With a name like Sweet Miss Giving’s bakery, how could this place not be great?! The beauty of this Chicago bakery is that the good extends far beyond the baked goods; the sweet shop is staffed by formerly homeless adults with disabilities. Half of the profits go to helping homeless and disabled Chicagoans. In Windy City Mayor Richard Daley’s words, “"The bakery goods are very good.” I’m sold. And hungry.


Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
October 21st, 2008
08:01 PM ET

Erica’s News Note: State of the Union

Erica Hill | Bio
AC360° Correspondent

A man returns a pair of shoes after finding the same pair somewhere else at a better price (sounds like me!), but later notices a racial slur on his receipt. At first, I thought a salesperson had scrawled the hateful word on the back of his receipt. But then I watched the story and realized that nasty word was an option in the store’s computer. Why on earth would a code for a racial slur be on ANY computer, especially the one tied to a cash register? To get the full picture, you need to watch the story.

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Just how close is this country to a repeat of the Great Depression? A little too close for my comfort.

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The uncertain economy is one of the leading factors behind the findings in a new CNN poll - results that offer a jarring snapshot of the USA.

The bad news: 75 percent of Americans say things are going badly in this country, according to a new CNN poll. Americans are angry, scared and stressed to the max – though I probably didn’t need to tell you that. "Americans tend to downplay the amount of fear they have when facing tough times,” says CNN polling director Keating Holland. “The fact that more than six in 10 say that they are scared shows how bad things are getting."

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Filed under: Erica Hill • Erica's News Note
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